Deschutes Brewery enters the Ohio market
Ohio is a great place to be a craft beer drinker. Not only are there nearly a dozen breweries open or opening in the Miami Valley and myriad world-class breweries throughout the state, but Ohio is also at the heart of craft beer distribution.
In an article last fall, the Huffington Post ranked Ohio as No. 6 in the country for beer distribution, noting we Buckeyes have incredible access to the top breweries in the country. Our central location translates into distribution from the west, the east, and all points in-between.
The last six to eight weeks have been especially kind to Ohio beer drinkers. Warped Wing, the Gem City’s first brewery bent on distribution, opened in downtown Dayton in mid-January. In addition, New Belgium released Fat Tire, Ranger and several other highly favored beers into Ohio just before Christmas. January brought Deschutes, the West Coast brewery with the almost cult-like following into the heartland.
Deschutes held tastings around the state when they launched into both Ohio and Kentucky on Jan. 24. The Oregon-based brewery, which the Brewer’s Association ranks as the fifth largest craft brewer in the country, now has a presence in half the country – Ohio and our southern neighbor were states 24 and 25 on Deschutes’ list.
Why Ohio? Jason Randles, digital marketing manager at Deschutes Brewery, explained a lot of it has to do with the number of craft beer drinkers here and their love for the Deschutes brand. Randles noted the state has a vibrant craft scene with a lot of enthusiasm for Deschutes product.
“There are so many people who are thanking us for coming out who have had our beers before and are happy to see it again,” he said.
The move into the Midwest meant some long-term planning for Deschutes. Mainly, the brewery needed capacity. Over the past two years, Deschutes has added ten 13,000-barrel fermenters. The additional brewing capacity allows Deschutes to produce nearly 450,000 barrels of beer a year. With the addition of Ohio and Kentucky, the brewery is now operating at well over half of that capacity. And with moves planned later this year into Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, the brewery will fill that remaining capacity very quickly. After that, Deschutes will put expansion on hold for a year or so.
“[There are] no plans for further expansion in 2015 because that takes us to a place where it’s going to get tight and we don’t want to have to pull out of any state because we don’t have the capacity, or negatively impact the states we’ve been selling beer in for 20 to 25 years because we are expanding,” Randles said. “We want to be sure we are successful with where we go, and that it’s very thought out.”
The brewery has a solid plan for the Ohio market. First, they paired up with Heidelberg, a distributor with a lot of clout in Ohio. While Heidelberg may be known for its Anheuser-Busch Division, the craft beer division has been busy adding brands like 21st Amendment, Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada. While some breweries divvy up a state among multiple distributors, Deschutes is working with Heidelberg exclusively in Ohio and Kentucky.
Additionally, Deschutes has catered its line-up to Ohio tastes. Look for four six-pack offerings from the brewery. Three of the beers are year-round favorites: Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter and Inversion IPA. Mirror Pond is a sessionable pale ale, clocking in at 5 percent ABV and dosed with a ton of Cascade hops. Black Butte is a roasty porter with a slight hop bite. Inversion IPA is the largest of the three year-round beers, a bold IPA brewed with a blend of six hops.
In addition, look for the seasonal Red Chair NWPA, an IPA with a decidedly large malt backbone. This line-up reflects the love of hoppy beers in the Ohio market and is punctuated by Hop Henge IPA, a 22-ounce offering that is part of the brewery’s experimental series, dubbed the Bond Street Series in honor of the original Bend, Ore., brewpub.
As presence in Ohio expands, look for additional beers from the standard lineup (Chainbreaker IPA will be the next one released), as well as the summer seasonal, Twilight Summer Ale. A summer Bond Street offering, rumored to be a Belgian-style IPA, is also likely, although the names and release dates of that beer are still shrouded in mystery.
Want to find Deschutes? It’s available at most craft beer retailers, as well as Kroger, Meijer and many local gas stations. Fans of Deschutes can use the brewery’s Find Beer feature on their website (deschutesbrewery.com) to see where the beers are on tap. And although Bend, Ore., is a long way from Ohio, expect fresh beer.
“We’re doing everything possible to ensure we are delivering the best, highest quality beer to all of our markets,” Randles said. “We are bottle conditioning all of the beers that we send out. All of our labels have a ‘best by’ date on them, so you know if it’s fresh or not. The trucks, once the weather gets warmer, will be refrigerated, so you won’t have to worry about the beer fluctuating temperatures on the journey from Bend to Ohio, and we work with our distributors to ensure that the beer that’s on the shelf is within code.”
Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin J. Gray at KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com